How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?

Healthy Weight

It's not unusual to hear people blame their weight gain on a slow metabolism.

They've cut down on calories and they're more active, but they're not losing weight.

Could the culprit be a slow metabolism?

What is metabolism?

Metabolism describes all the chemical processes that go on continuously inside your body to keep you alive and your organs functioning normally, such as breathing, repairing cells and digesting food.

These chemical processes require energy. The minimum amount of energy your body requires to carry out these chemical processes is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Your BMR may account for up to 80% of your body's daily energy requirements, depending on your age and lifestyle. A "slow metabolism" is more accurately described as a low BMR.

There are lots of online calculators that can work out your daily energy needs. Look out for those that use the Harris-Benedict equation.

Do some people have a faster metabolism than others?

Body size, age, gender and genes all play a role in the speed of your metabolism.

Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so people with more muscle than fat tend to have a faster metabolism.

As we get older, we tend to gain fat and lose muscle. This explains why your metabolism may slow down as you get older.

In general, men tend to have a faster metabolism because they have more muscle mass, heavier bones and less body fat than women.

Your metabolism may be partly determined by your genes, although this is not yet fully understood.

Genes definitely play a role in muscle size and your ability to grow muscles, both of which affect your metabolism.

Am I fat because of a slow metabolism?

People who struggle to lose weight often blame a slow metabolism. But there's little evidence to support this claim.

Research actually shows that overweight people have faster metabolisms than thinner people. Larger bodies require more energy to carry out basic bodily functions.

Putting a "slow metabolism" to one side, something else may be at play here.

Research suggests people tend to eat more than they think they do. When asked to write down everything they've consumed in a day, many people tend to report eating far less than they actually do.

More often than not, the reason you're putting on weight is not because of a slow metabolism, it's because you're eating and drinking more calories than you're burning.

It may be hard to accept, but staying on top of the number of calories you eat is key to losing weight and keeping it off.

Our 12-week weight loss plan will help you lose weight by tracking your calories.

Can losing weight too fast slow my metabolism?

Crash diets and other calorie-restricted diets can slow your metabolism.

With some diets, your body is forced to break down muscle to use for energy. The lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism.

With less muscle and a slower metabolism, it then becomes a lot easier to put body fat back on after coming off the diet.

What can I do to speed up my metabolism?

It's claimed that certain foods and drinks can boost your metabolism, including green tea, black coffee, spices and energy drinks. The evidence behind these claims is weak or they are not effective long-term solutions.

While you do not have much control over the speed of your metabolism, you can control how many calories you burn through your level of physical activity.

The more active you are, the more calories you burn.

Some people who are said to have a fast metabolism are probably just more active – and maybe more fidgety – than others.

Here are the 3 most effective ways of burning calories:

  • Aerobic activity - aerobic exercise is the most effective way to burn calories. You should aim to do at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking, cycling and swimming, a week. You can achieve this target by doing 30 minutes, 5 days a week and breaking down your activity sessions in chunks of 10 minutes. To lose weight, you're likely to need to do more than 150 minutes a week and make changes to your diet.
  • Strength training - muscle burns more calories than fat, so increasing your muscle mass will help you lose weight. Aim to do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on 2 or more days a week. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights and high-intensity bouts of exercise. Heavy gardening may also do the job.
  • Be active - try to make activity part of your daily routine. That could include walking or cycling all or part of your journey to work. You could also take the stairs instead of the lift.

Can certain medical conditions cause a slow metabolism?

Some diseases and conditions can slow a person's metabolism, such as Cushing's syndrome and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid).

But more often than not, people's weight is a matter of consuming more calories than they burn.

If you feel you may have a problem that's not responding to lifestyle changes, speak to a doctor.

Healthy Weight Useful Resources

To avail of EA staff discounts for Council Leisure Centres: 1. Select a Leisure Centre...
Nightingale groups are confidential, inclusive, and welcoming spaces for anyone with...
Solace is a free video-based peer support group hosted over Zoom. It’s for anyone...
Swan groups are a confidential, inclusive and welcoming space for anyone with anorexia to...
This idea is a walk in the park. It really is that simple, post a news item to see how...
Fun, fast food for less. This is a practical six-week nutrition programme aimed at...
The message boards are here to support you whether you are concerned about yourself or...
Cancer Focus NI, Keeping Well vans are mobile drop-in units which bring health checks,...
Kingfisher groups are a confidential, inclusive and welcoming space for anyone suffering...
Solace is a free video-based peer support group hosted over Zoom. It’s for anyone...
You can talk one-to-one with us using our secure instant messaging service. Beat’s...
Cancer Focus NI can provide a wide range of presentations to meet the needs of your...
Raising Resilience is a series of online workshops for carers that take place live over...
The Quick Fit programme offers positive steps to improve your health through diet and...
Nutrition scanner
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
Food diary, exercise tracker and diet coach
Fabulous! Is a motivational app that uses challenges to help build physically and...
Fitness tracker
Develop healthier eating habits, be more active, and get on track to start losing weight...
Fitness tracker
The Nike+ Run Club app tracks your run and helps you reach your goals, whether it’s...
Our free Easy Meals app is a great way to eat foods that are healthier for you. You’ll...
12 week exercise plan
Find out if you're a healthy weight
The plan is designed to help you lose weight at a safe rate of 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week by sticking to a daily calorie allowance. For most men, this means sticking to a calorie limit of no more than 1,900kcal a day, and 1,400kcal for most women. The weight loss plan is broken down into 12 weeks. It is full of healthy eating, diet and physical activity advice, including weekly challenges. Each week contains a food and activity chart to help you record your calories, exercise and weight loss so you can see how well you're doing at a glance. If you're using the downloadable PDFs, print the chart out at the start of your week. Stick it somewhere you can see it, such as the fridge or a kitchen cupboard, and update it at the end of each day.